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NCAA Sweet 16 Press Conference Transcript: Arizona (March 26, 2009)

Thursday, March 26, 2009 , Posted by Christopher Byrne at 8:13 PM, under , ,

Athens, GA (Mar 26, 2009) -The Sweet 16 Teams are getting ready for their games over the next two days. Part of that preparation is sitting down with the media. Here is the transcript of the University of Arizona press conference, as provided by the NCAA.

BILL BENNER: We're joined by Coach Pennell. We'll take questions for

Q. Most of us try to live in the present, not worry about the past
or the future. It seems to me your situation almost demands it.

COACH PENNELL: Yeah, there's no question about that. One of the
things I think that's helped all of us, the players, coaches and
everyone this year, is try to focus on 2008/2009 season. We're still
in that, obviously.

You know, if you just go about focusing on preparing for practice or
preparing for a game or if you're working a kid out, whatever you're
doing, you put your mind on that, then you don't need to worry about
things that you can't control anyway.

So that's the way we've tried to approach every day this year.

Q. All four teams in this regional have won NCAA championships or
are in the running just about every year. How does it feel to be here
with kind of three other blue bloods of the sport?

COACH PENNELL: It's exciting. It's a great opportunity. You know,
this is actually my sixth NCAA tournament and the third time I've been
in the Sweet 16. My first two years at Oklahoma State, we got there.

So, you know, I at least have an idea of what to expect from the
atmosphere, the crowds, everything else. But, you know, to play in
this environment against these teams, it will be a real treat for our
players and for our staff.

Q. Is there a team that you played this year that plays a comparable
style to the full court pressure of Louisville?

COACH PENNELL: The University of Washington will play full court,
man to man defense. They may not trap quite as much as Louisville
does, but we have seen that. When we played Kansas at home, they
extended their pressure a little bit.

I think Louisville does it as well as any team in the country. So to
prepare for that is difficult. I don't know we've seen a press like
they're going to play against us tomorrow.

Q. Talk about depth. With the TV timeouts, I know you don't use a
lot of guys, they press full court, do you expect depth to be an

COACH PENNELL: Well, it certainly could be. But, you know, we've
played the way we're gonna play tomorrow all year long. We've got
three guys we play heavy, heavy minutes. In fact, they were three of
the top five minutes played in the PAC 10 this year. They're in
incredible condition. Their conditioning all year has been really
good. We've been very fortunate that we've stayed injury free. And
with the long timeouts, it definitely helps us.

Also, when we've sensed they're a little bit tired, we get them out
right before the media timeout, which many coaches do, to buy them
extra time.

We're going to have to ride the horses that got us here, and that's
what we'll do tomorrow.

Q. If I read the media guide right, you were doing Arizona State
radio last year. Did you ever see yourself coaching in the Sweet 16 a
year later?

COACH PENNELL: No, I don't think anyone can plan on that. I did
radio for ASU for a couple years, had had a couple opportunities to
get back in coaching. They weren't exactly what I wanted.

When I signed on to work at the University of Arizona, I was hoping
we'd be in the Sweet 16, but I had no idea that I would be the head
coach at that moment.

You know, the great thing about life in general is it can change
quickly, and sometimes it's for the best, a real positive. And this
year it's been that for me.

Q. Your initial impressions of the facility, whether you're
concerned at all about the vastness of everything out there.

COACH PENNELL: I don't think it will. It was great to get out there
and shoot around. We spent our entire 50 minutes really on shooting
just so we could get accustomed to it. We'll have a short practice in
here again tomorrow. We should be fine.

It's a beautiful facility. I commented to someone out there before,
it's just incredible what they've done with it. It's a great venue. I
know when the Final Four is here next year, it will get to be shown
off even more.

I think this is a great, great environment for basketball. I like
the way they've built the stands, back up to the football stands. I
think they've done a real nice job with that.

Q. There was a lot of publicity regarding your program in the year
before this season started regarding coaching situation, Coach Olson.
The job was offered now to the man who is your assistant coach. You
were off the radar. Now you're back. You're getting some publicity
regarding that. I'd like to ask you how you and your assistant have
delegated the duties? Are you co head coaches? Who makes the decisions and under what circumstances?

COACH PENNELL: I make the decisions. I'm fortunate that I have
someone of Mike Dunlap's experience. He was a head coach for 17 years.
And I do rely on him heavily, as I do Reggie Geary and Matt Brase, my
other assistants.

But Mike has brought a wealth of knowledge to what we're doing.
Everything is run through me and I have the ultimate decision. I also
have a lot of confidence in him.

My whole thing is this, I really could care less who gets the credit
for what we do as long as we're successful. It matters not. I see in
this business a lot of time people's egos destroy them. I always
thought to myself if I had this opportunity at whatever level, as an
assistant coach for 15 years, which I was, I appreciated the people I
worked under, that they gave me a lot of responsibility. I thought
that was important that I did the same.

Q. If this is it, if this is the only chance you ever have to be a
head coach and get here, is this enough?

COACH PENNELL: Sure. Just the opportunity to walk through this
journey this year is incredible. And it's helped me not only as a
coach but as a person. It stretched me. It's forced me to think
outside the box. It's very unconventional what we've gone through. Yet
somehow we've made it work.

I think the biggest thing is the line of communication we've had
between our players, our staff. We're very open, we're very
transparent. And when you're that way, you can truly look at it as a
family. Because in families, you have arguments. In families, you have
discussions. And we do the same thing. But we've always been able to
put aside our personal agendas for the good of the team.

And for that, you know, I'll forever be indebted because I think
it's made me a better coach and a better person. If this is the only
opportunity, so be it. Life goes on.

Q. Do you ever find yourself going, How the heck did this happen?

COACH PENNELL: I don't think I've had the luxury of thinking about
that yet. Again, there has been so much to do, trying to keep everyone
on point. I'm sure maybe I will in the next few weeks, be able to
reflect back.

But, you know, I really believe that things happen for a reason in
life. I believe there's a purpose in life, for everyone's life. And my
appointed time is to be the coach of the Arizona Wildcats. Even if
that's for a brief time. So the opportunity I've had, I've tried to
make the best of it and do the best for the people that are underneath

Q. Coach Pitino is 35-11 in NCAA tournament games. You're about to
coach your third. What is it going to be like to match wits against

COACH PENNELL: I'm undefeated. Better record. No, I'm kidding

You know what, when I was at Ole Miss, we went against Coach
Pitino's teams at Kentucky. I know how good a coach he is. I know what
he stands for in the college basketball world. You know, this didn't
come down to me versus Rick Pitino. It's our team against Louisville's

There are no secrets anymore. They do what they do very well. What
we have to do is counter that. And if we can, we'll be victorious. If
we can't, they'll win. That's the thrill of the great many.

Once that ball gets tipped off, it's another basketball game that
everyone's trying to win.

Q. What is the single most difficult thing about their press in
getting the ball up court?

COACH PENNELL: I think it's that it's so relentless. They have so
many guys they can put in there. They really get into the basketball
and make it difficult. Then once those guys get tired, they put in a
new wave. And they can just keep coming at you, coming at you. The
thing you have to be careful about, you can handle it for a little
while, then all of a sudden they hit you with one of those big runs.
That's, to me, what makes them so dangerous.

All the games that we have watched, there's that one moment in the
game where they've been able to really explode. And that's the key.
You try to keep that from happening. It's easier said than done.

Q. Could you also talk a little bit about the zone that they play in
halfcourt. They kind of make it a point to pressure. Seems like it's
more ball pressure than typical zone.

COACH PENNELL: It's a little bit like what we try to do. You really
try to get into the ball, you kind of spread it a little bit, get in
the passing lanes a little bit more. They're trying to obviously speed
you up, try to make you make quick decisions.

I think the key to attacking it is having a good idea where you want
to go with the ball and then having a patience about you. To me, what
makes Louisville so good is they can get you sped up. A lot times you
might not even take a bad shot, but it's a quick shot. To me that's
the beauty of their press, is that it's very offensive. It's not just
a defense to try to stop you; they're trying to speed you up and make
you play maybe out of control a little bit. Same thing with their

BILL BENNER: Thank you, coach.


BILL BENNER: We're joined by Arizona student athletes. We'll open it
up for questions.

Q. Chase, your coach said you guys spent most of your time out there
in this practice on shooting, trying to get used to the arena, the
size of it. You think you're going to have a problem with that or do
you feel pretty comfortable out there?

CHASE BUDINGER: I hope we don't have any problems. You know, today
in shooting I thought we did a good job at making baskets. It is
different for us because of the backdrop and the arena is so big. It's
just something new to us.

But, like I said, I thought we did a good job at shooting today.

Q. Nic, from what you've seen on film, can you talk about what their
pressure looks like. The other teams you played, Washington, Kansas,
do you feel it's comparable or is this different?

NIC WISE: You know, their press is a little different. Washington,
you know, we handled their press pretty well. It's just the fact that
they have so many guards that they rotate in and out, so their energy
never drops off. Other teams that we played, they've pressed, but they
don't have many subs or backups that can create that energy the whole
game. And that's what they have.

Q. Jordan, statistically it looked like defensively you guys played
some of your best ball last weekend. I'm wondering what the change
was, either philosophically or in execution?

JORDAN HILL: Basically, you know, we just try to attack our opponent
first, you know, be the aggressor. We try to help each other out on
rotations, try to get to our man as soon as possible once they catch
the ball. Ball pressure has been a hundred percent from us. We just
got to, you know, try to make it 110%, just try to get in the face of
our opponent, let them pass the ball, we just keep rotating.

Other than that, we've been doing a heck of a job doing what we have
to do on the defensive end. Just got to continue it.

NIC WISE: We just been, like Jordan said, being the aggressor first.
We've been using our adrenaline in the first couple minutes to press
other teams, set the tone for our defense for the whole game in the
first couple minutes of the game. That's been key for us.

Q. You didn't steamroll into the tournament the end of the season,
things weren't going so well for you. Here it is a week or so later
and you're in the Sweet 16. What happened in terms of your attitude or
focus and the way you have prepared for the games?

CHASE BUDINGER: With the last two games, I thought that we just used
the energy that we had from making it into the tournament. You know,
once we saw our names go up on the board, we were energized as a team.
I thought we just brought that into the games and just used that.

I thought our intensity was as best as we ever had it this year.

JORDAN HILL: Yeah, I mean, we all felt that we belonged into the
tournament. But it was up to the NCAA committee. Once we got the
chance to get into the tournament, we got this opportunity, we just
made the best of it and tried to go back to where we was before, and
that's to be the best team that we possibly can, 'cause that's how we

So we just got to go out there and take it one step at a time, you
know, just go out there and have fun, play basketball, do the things
that we know we can do, we've been known to do.

Q. Do you feel at all that maybe earlier in the season you were
underachieving? Did you always feel like you had the potential to make
a run like this?

NIC WISE: Yeah, we did. But we really didn't find ourselves into mid
season, after that Houston game. We kind of pushed the tempo on the
offensive end, started creating more havoc on the defensive end. We
kind of found ourselves in that Houston game, went on a 7 0 stretch
where we beat some big time teams. That's where we knew.

We were trying to find ourselves in the beginning of the season,
trying a lot of different things. We knew we had the talent to do it,
but we just had to find, you know, that scheme that best fits our

CHASE BUDINGER: I mean, like Nic was saying, we were trying to find
ourselves, and the coaches did a good job at kind of, you know,
letting us loose towards the middle of the season, letting us start
playing our game a little more. Once we did that, I thought we started
playing better as a team.

You know, I think we found ourselves then. And after that we knew we
could play with anybody.

BILL BENNER: Gentlemen, thank you.

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